On (Not) Loving Henry Kissinger

21 May

On (Not) Loving Henry Kissinger

 

There is an irony that would be amusing if it was not depressing about news that Donald Trump has been courting the 92-year old foreign policy sorcerer Henry Kissinger. Of course, the irony is that earlier in the presidential campaign Hilary Clinton proudly claimed Kissinger as ‘a friend,’ and acknowledged that he “relied on his counsel” while she served as Obama’s Secretary of State between 2009-2013. It is indeed strange that the only point of public convergence between free-swinging Trump and war-mongering Clinton should be these ritual shows of deference to the most scandalous foreign policy figure of the past century.

 

Kissinger should not be underestimated as an international personality with a sorcerer’s dark gifts. After all, he was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize in 1973 for his perverse role in Vietnam diplomacy. Kissinger had supported the war from its inception and was known as a strong proponent of the despicable ‘Christmas bombing’ of North Vietnam. He had earlier joined with Nixon in secretly extending the Vietnam War to Cambodia, incidentally without Congressional knowledge, much less authorization. This led to the total destabilization and devastation of a country that had successfully maintained its neutrality for the prior decade. It also generated the genocidal takeover by the Khmer Rouge in the 1970s resulting in the death of a third of the Cambodian population. It was notable that the Nobel had been jointly awarded to Luc Duc Tho, Kissinger’s counterpart in the negotiations, who exhibited his dignity by declining the prize, while Kissinger as shameless as ever, accepted and had an assistant deliver his acceptance speech because he was too busy to attend. Significantly, for the first time, two members of the Nobel Selection Committee resigned their position in disgust.

 

The more familiar, and more damning allegation against Kissinger, is his association with criminal violations of international law. These are convincingly set forth in Christopher Hitchens The Trial of Henry Kissinger (2001). Hitchens informed readers that he “confined himself to the identifiable crimes that can and should be placed on a proper bill of indictment.” He omitted others. Hitchens lists six major crimes of Kissinger:

            “1. The deliberate mass killing of civilian population in Indochina.

  1. Deliberate collusion in mass murder, and later in assassination in         Bangla Desh.
  2. The personal suborning and planning of murder, of a senior constitutional officer in a democratic nation—Chile—with which the United States was not at war.
  3. Personal involvement in a plan to murder the head of state in the democratic nation of Cyprus.
  4. The incitement and enabling of genocide in East Timor.
  5. Personal involvement in a plan to kidnap and murder a journalist living in Washington, DC.”

Whether the evidence available would support a conviction in an international tribunal is far from certain, but Kissinger’s association and approval of these unlawful and inhumane policies, and many others, is clear beyond reasonable doubt.

 

In some respects as damaging as these allegations of complicity in war crimes is, it is not the only reason to question Kissinger’s credentials as guru par excellence. Kissinger shares with Hilary Clinton a record of bad judgments, supporting some foreign policy initiatives that would be disastrous if enacted

and others that failed while inflicting great suffering on a foreign civilian population. In his most recent book, World Order published in 2014, Kissinger makes a point of defending his support of George W. Bush’s foreign policy with specific reference to the war of aggression undertaken in 2003. In his words, “I supported the decision to undertake regime change in Iraq..I want to express here my continuing respect and personal affection for President George W. Bush, who guided America with courage, dignity, and conviction in an unsteady time. His objectives and dedication honored his country even when in some cases they proved unattainable within the American political cycle.” [pp. 324-325] One would have hoped that such an encomium to the internationally least successful U.S. president would be a red flag for those presidential candidates turning to Kissinger for guidance, but such is his lofty reputation, that no amount of crimes or errors of judgment can diminish his public stature.

 

Kissinger first attracted widespread public attention with a book that encouraged relying on nuclear weapons in a limited war scenario in Europe, insisting that the United States could prudently confront the Soviet Union without inviting an attack on its homeland. [Nucelar Weapons and Foreign Policy (1967). As already indirectly suggested, he supported the Vietnam War, the anti-Allende coup in Chile, Indonesian genocidal efforts to deny independence to East Timor, and many other dubious foreign policy undertakings that turned out badly, even from his own professed realist perspective.

 

It is true that Kissinger has a grasp of the history of diplomacy that impresses ordinary politicians such as Trump and Clinton. True, also, he rode the crest of the wave with respect to the diplomatic opening to China in 1972 and pursued with impressive energy the negotiation of ceasefire arrangements between Israel and Egypt and Israel and Syria after the 1973 Arab-Israeli War. As well, TIME magazine had a cover featuring Kissinger dressed as superman, dubbing their hero as ‘super-K.’ There is, in this sense, no doubt that Kissinger has been a master as refurbishing his tarnished reputation over the course of decades.

 

Yet fairly considered, whether from a normative or strategic outlook, I would have hoped that Kissinger should be viewed as ‘discredited’ rather than as the most revered repository of foreign policy wisdom in this nation. Bernie Sanders struck the proper note when he said “I am proud to say that Henry Kissinger is not my friend.” And when queried by Clinton as to who he would heed, Sanders responded, “I will not take advice from Henry Kissinger.” In contrast, the words of Hilary Clinton confirm her affinity for the man: “He checked in with me regularly, sharing astute observations about foreign leaders and sending me written reports on his travels.” In fairness she did qualify this show of deference with these words: “[t]hough we have often seen the world and some of our challenges quite differently, and advocated different responses now and in the past….” This was the only saving grace in her otherwise gushing review of Kissinger’s World Order (2014) published in the Washington Post.

 

Let me offer a final comment on this shared adulation of Kissinger as the éminence grise of American foreign policy by the two likely candidates for the presidency. It epitomizes and helps explain the banality of the political discourse that has dominated the primary phases of the presidential campaign. It is hardly surprising that during this time dark clouds of despair hang heavy in the skies above the American body politic. Before either presidential hopeful even walks into the Oval Office both Trump and Clinton are viewed unfavorably by over half of all Americans, and regarded with a mixture of dismay, fear, and shock by political leaders and their publics around the world. To show obeisance to Kissinger’s wisdom and wizardry is thus emblematic of the paucity of mainstream American political imagination, and should worry all who care about the future of the country and the world.

 

 

13 Responses to “On (Not) Loving Henry Kissinger”

  1. Corinne Whitaker May 21, 2016 at 9:14 am #

    Brilliant.

  2. Robert Nowak May 21, 2016 at 10:52 am #

    As usual, spot on.

  3. rehmat1 May 21, 2016 at 1:29 pm #

    Dr. Falk – Receiving a Nobel Peace award is no criteria for a man’s statesmanship. Two Zionist Jewish terrorists, Yitzhak Robin, and Shimon Peres, and Barack Obama even received the honor before he began the Muslim Holocaust around the Globe.

    The Nobel Peace prize had long become a political tool for the imperialist powers.

    Henry Kissinger can pride himself for being defended by the Organized Jewry while loathed by some fellow Jews. For example, Abraham Foxman, former head of ADL had claimed that criticism of Henry Kissinger is old-fashioned ‘antisemitism’. Christopher Hitchens and Bernie Sanders had called Henry Kissinger “War Criminal”.

    Rev. Ted Pike called Kissinger “the biblical Beast 666”, as Henry Kissinger numerically adds up to 666.

    On March 3, 2011 – Former US Secretary of State (1973-77), Henry (Heinz) Kissinger, sent a letter to US President Barack Obama asking him to pardon the convicted Jewish-American-Israeli spy, Jonathan Pollard. “At first I felt I did not have enough information to render a reasoned and just opinion. But having talked with former Secretary of State George Shultz and read the statements of former CIA Director R. James Woolsey, former Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Dennis DeConcini, former Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger, former Attorney General Michael Mukasey (Jew) and others whose judgments and first-hand knowledge I respect, I find their unanimous support for clemency compelling. I believe justice would be served by commuting the remainder of Pollard’s sentence of life imprisonment,” Kissinger wrote in the letter.

    Henry Kissinger, who cried for mercy for a fellow Zionist Jew who was convicted for stealing and passing hundreds of thousands of US secrets to Israel – did not care for his fellow Jewish brothers and sisters in Russia. A released Nixon tapes has Henry Kissinger saying: “The emigration of Jews from the Soviet Union is not an objective of American foreign policy. And if they put Jews into gas chambers in the Soviet Union, it is not an American concern”.

    https://rehmat1.com/2011/03/22/henry-kissinger-im-back/

  4. Laurie Knightly May 21, 2016 at 5:35 pm #

    Looks like that hoax announcement of Kissinger’s death came out at the same time as this essay. The notice got reactions from glee to anger. Bad joke by yet another internet troll. Kissinger seems to be a person about whom one cannot be neutral – if one studies his history/positions/quotes. He has generated considerable enmity but maintains a standing of some sort.

    I remember years ago his brother was being interviewed and it was noted that his speech was not accented like Henry’s. His brother’s response was that Henry doesn’t listen.

    The Nixon/Kissinger team throughout the Cold War years was nerve wracking. The objective to disconnect Arab countries from any Soviet connection was constantly obscured with the overall fears/threats of communism. This is another reminder of authoritativeness carried to the extreme. Leaders always need objective oversight – like the rest of us. Not good to make them unquestioned heroes.

  5. Carlos May 21, 2016 at 6:32 pm #

    Well said Richard. A dismal picture. Lenin’s words come to mind ‘what is to be done?’

  6. Carlos May 21, 2016 at 8:25 pm #

    What is to be done? Your analysis is so true. I was at university when in 1973 the US bombed Allende’s palace. Sceptical of America ever since and horrified st Australia’s obeisance.

  7. Gene Schulman May 22, 2016 at 12:57 am #

    Not that this is not important as a reminder of who Kissinger was/is, but I wonder who will be Obama’s Hitchens and show the hypocrisy of that noble Nobel award.

  8. wingsprd May 22, 2016 at 4:07 am #

    What is to be done? As usual Richard your analysis is timely, accurate and perceptive. Keep up the good work. You are a beacon for what is right and just.

  9. ETAN (@etan009) May 23, 2016 at 7:27 am #

    Those wanting to know more about Kissinger’s role in Indonesia’s illegal invasion of East Timor can take a look at the East Timor and Indonesia Action Network’s website here: http://www.etan.org/news/kissinger/default.htm. We also regularly organize protests at events involving Kissinger.

    • Laurie Knightly May 23, 2016 at 5:46 pm #

      Re East Timor—–What was the reason for the US involvement? Stated or otherwise…….. lots of interesting info, thanks.

  10. Kata Fisher May 23, 2016 at 9:42 am #

    A Note: In the past/present, the Foreign policy of US was shaped to a real extent by mentally ill individuals. It’s mind-boggling that current leaders do not realize that mental illness is guiding their decisions/ values about / to the Global conditions/Policy. It is just bizzare!

    See the Note by John from the reference article bellow:

    ” ‘The CIA’s Holy War
    As the Cold War entered
    its hottest phase in the early 1950s, a hardline
    CIA officer named Harry Rositzke was
    given one of America’s most urgent jobs.
    From a base in Munich he coordinated a
    staggering array of covert operations aimed
    at weakening the Soviet Union. He ran spies,
    directed sabotage operations, and sent many
    operatives to their deaths on missions behind
    the Iron Curtain. It was the hardest and most
    brutal kind of work, but Rositzke, his superiors,
    and their bosses in the White House
    believed it was urgently necessary to prevent
    the very extermination of the United States.
    Decades later, looking back over his
    career, Rositzke concluded that it had all
    been pointless and even counter-productive.
    The central effort in CIA history—the secret
    war against the Soviet Union—was motivated
    not by reality, he wrote in a memoir, but
    by “hysteria and paranoia.”
    “The Cold War became a holy war against
    the infidels, a defense of free God-fearing
    men against the atheistic Communist system,”
    he recalled. “As it turned out, the image
    was an illusion. The specter of a powerful
    Russia was remote from the reality of a
    country weakened by war, with a shattered
    economy, an overtaxed civilian and military
    bureaucracy, and large areas of civil unrest.
    The illusory image was at least partly due to
    a failure of intelligence.”
    American covert operations during the
    Cold War, run mainly by the Central Intelligence
    Agency, were breathtaking in scope
    and ambition. They aimed not only to bleed
    the Soviet Union, but also to impose governments
    subservient to the United States wherever
    possible, overthrow defiant ones, and
    punish anyone in the world who questioned
    America’s foreign policy. Even more astonishing
    is how misbegotten most of these
    operations look from the perspective of history.
    They not only devastated many of the
    target countries, but also spread anti-American
    passion, weakening the national security
    of the United States. Their origin lay not in
    sober assessments of the world, but in what ‘ ”
    “P”

    Relevant Reference/Bibliography:

    http://watson.brown.edu/files/watson/imce/news/2016/CIA%27s%20Holy%20Cold%20War%20Kinzer.pdf

  11. Beau Oolayforos May 23, 2016 at 9:35 pm #

    Dear Professor Falk,

    Birds of a feather flock together, so we should hardly be surprised. Starting with his admiration for Castlereagh, famous for pitch-capping Irishmen; and then on to warm friendships with Nixon, Pinochet, the Bush junta, and on and on. A late liaison with Trump would be superfluous frosting on a very ugly, toxic cake.

  12. Jerry "Peacemaker" May 24, 2016 at 5:42 pm #

    Professor Danny Sheehan, famous for his legal leadership in bringing the Iran-Contra case, involvement with Watergate and the Pentagon Papers, representing the family of Karen Silkwoood and other major cases, attended Harvard Law School in the 1960’s and took a course in Government taught by Henry Kissinger. Sheehan recalls the 1st day of class when Kissinger said, “If you don’t believe the United States has the right to lie, cheat, steal and kill to further the interests of the country in the world, you don’t belong in this course.”

    Kissinger is a full-on fascist Nazi, and it wouldn’t surprise if it became known a Nazi flag hangs in a prominent spot wherever he lives. That Clinton and Trump even associate with this major war criminal, much less express admiration for the disgusting creature, should make the American people very seriously concerned about the outcome of this election – concerned enough to exert their utmost power to convince the American people, as rapidly as possible, that their wisest choice is electing Sanders the President.

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